Nalzaro: Labella’s philanthropy

Bobby Nalzaro

IF SOMEBODY will call or text you today to inform you that you won the jackpot in the lotto draw or a relative met an accident, don’t believe him/her. He/she might just be joking. Remember, today is Holy Innocents’ Day or Santos Inocentes. It is a Biblical story but since Filipinos are fond of making jokes, it has become a day to play pranks like on April Fools’ Day.

In the New Testament, the Massacre of the Innocents is the incident in the nativity narrative of the Gospel of Matthew (2:16-18) in which King Herod, the great King of Judea, ordered the execution of all male children two years old and under in the vicinity of Bethlehem. This, after the King was informed by the Magi that the man who will succeed his crown was already born. King Herod hoped that infant Jesus was one of them.

The Catholic Church claims the children murdered in Jesus’ stead were the first Christian martyrs and their feast--Holy Innocents’ Day or the Feast of Holy Innocents--is celebrated on Dec. 28. Why innocent? Because children are innocent.

So just beware of the pranksters and practical jokes about you and your loved ones. Sa laktod nga pagkasulti, ayaw mog pailad karong adlawa.

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According to Matthew 25:35, “I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

I think this is the guiding principle that drove Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella when he extended help by accommodating at the Cebu City Sports Center those hundreds of boat passengers who got stranded at port terminals at the height of typhoon Ursula last Christmas eve. For me, that was a good gesture from the mayor, one that showcased an important Filipino trait and value, which is hospitality.

The stranded passengers were practically strangers to the mayor because most of them, if not all, were transients. Labella’s kindness was not for “pa-pogi points” or contained any political or personal agenda because those stranded passengers were not registered voters of Cebu City. It was a sincere gesture, an act of extending help to strangers.

That was the first time I heard of a local chief executive extending help to strangers. The previous mayors did not care about people who got stranded in ports after their trips were canceled because of weather disturbances. Some were forced to stay at the terminals overnight without food or stayed in pension houses and spent for themselves.

But this time, Labella accommodated them at the sports center. The mayor provided them with temporary shelter where they could have a good night’s sleep. He also provided them with food and other needs. With the support of some civic and social groups like Labella’s own group, the Walk and Talk Friendship Club headed by fellow columnist and broadcaster Frank Malilong, those stranded passengers were well accommodated for two days without spending a single centavo. As for Vice Mayor Mike Rama, he provided the stranded passengers with entertainment. I saw him on Facebook live singing in front of the people.

Kudos, Mayor. You are, indeed, a kindhearted person.